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Q&A With Kate Luffman

Senior journalism and electronic media major Kate Luffman had a dream of one day
photographing college athletics, and her dream became a reality when she started volunteering for Vol Photos, the photography team of the University of Tennessee Athletic Department. Luffman began as a volunteer student photographer in 2018 and has since been promoted to a staff student photographer.

You may also recognize Luffman through her creative game day paintings on The Rock, which often gather social media attention.

While participating in the CCI Global Communication Scholars program in Sydney, Australia, Luffman served as a photoblogger for International Studies Abroad (ISA), adding words to her images. She also studied abroad in Prague.

From the sidelines to the studio to unfamiliar destinations around the world, Luffman has been building her photography portfolio during her time in CCI.

What are your career goals?

I truly go through life day by day and have no idea what my future holds. I’d love to continue sports photography, but I also love to travel and would pursue travel photography if the opportunity presented itself.

How have you grown as a photographer shooting for the athletic department? What has been your favorite sport to photograph?

I began shooting for Tennessee Athletics spring semester of my sophomore year at UT. My dream growing up was to shoot collegiate athletics, so just in beginning to volunteer with Vol Photos, my dream came true. It wasn’t until fall semester junior year that I was really able to dedicate all of my time to photographing sports and being a part of the team here. Other part-time jobs to pay the bills got in the way for a while, but when I realized that my talent was valuable, I never turned back.

I really enjoy shooting most sports. I grew up taking photos of my younger sister, who played soccer, basketball and ran track. Football is awesome to shoot because of the atmosphere and the access we have with the team; however, I love women’s sports and being a woman photographing them. I love shooting our soccer team, but I also began traveling more with the Lady Vols basketball team this past season and had a lot of fun.

How has your time working with ISA in Sydney influenced your photography?

My time spent in Sydney was absolutely incredible and made me realize that I didn’t need a ton of gear to shoot and get good results. I personally have had the same camera since middle school and it’s all I had abroad; it forced my creativity to work at another level. As a photo blogger for ISA, I was able to write more and loved telling stories through more than just my photos.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?

You’re always going to have doubts and be hard on yourself. You have to believe that you are as good as you think you are and take every opportunity thrown your way, no matter how scary it may be. The photos that could come from those situations where you’re clueless and lost could change your life and career.

What would be your dream event to photograph?

You know, I’ve never really thought about this. I wish I had an easy answer like the Super Bowl, but that’s something a lot of photographers get to attend. I’m sure I’ll know the day when I’m out shooting somewhere and realize, wow I really made it.

What did you do during your study abroad assignment in Prague? What was a typical day like?

Honestly, I spent a lot of time in Prague doing things other than just our assignments. I went out by myself some nights with my camera and just explored the city and culture. For my last project, we had to do a package on something in the city, so I found an Alternative Prague Tour that took me around the city and showed me places where graffiti was legal. I loved this connection to the spray paint murals I do on the Rock on campus. It was really exciting being able to explore a new city where they didn’t speak English, and I could just photograph everything the way I saw it.

What is your process for painting The Rock? How do you come up with so many creative ideas?

This one is tough. Coming up with a new design every home game isn’t easy, and often times, original designs end up changing due to the nature of the curves in the rock. Sometimes I’ll be ahead of the game and doodle and prepare something the week before, but other times, I’ll show up with my paint and just go with whatever I see in my head. I often try to base what I end up painting on the opponent or something important about that weekend’s game.